Traditional cleansing ceremonies planned for Cape Town’s castle

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Traditional cleansing ceremonies are planned for the city centre’s Castle of Good Hope this month, as part of commemoration efforts to make it a more inclusive space.

Moeshfieka Botha, culture, heritage and education officer at the castle, says these ceremonies are part of a programme of events running until the end of next year.

Botha says this programme intends to build an inclusive historical narrative of the castle.

To this end, public dialogues are planned where “we need to engage an audience and elicit their stories of the castle” says Botha.

“There are uncomfortable truths that need to be addressed. It’s going to wake up a few ghosts at the castle,” she adds.

“Traditional leaders believe their ancestors at the castle are not at peace. There is blood on this land and that’s why these cleaning ceremonies need to take place.”

An inaugural traditional cleansing ceremony by Khoi tribes is planned for September 25.

Botha says this marks the date when a Khoi kraal was demolished to make way for the castle’s construction 350 years ago.

“People often think the castle was built on a vacant piece of land. But it was built on land that was taken. A Khoi kraal had to be moved for the castle to be built,” says Botha.

“That’s why we decided to acknowledge the 350 year existence of the site with a programme of commemoration rather than a celebration. While we can’t erase and change history we can choose what we glorify.

It is time that the hidden stories from this space be unearthed, told and heard. It is time for the world to be exposed to the beautiful people and cultures linked to this space.”

“Colonial history is part of the castle’s story, but it is no longer the story of the castle in its entirety.”

Other activities include the launch today (SATURDAY) of the Aba Te Indigenous Legacy Project that will run at the castle every week. Classes are free.

This project will include lessons on the Nama language, traditional and medicinal herbs, Bushman bow-making and music as well as indigenous history. These classes will be run at no cost to the public.

The castle’s chief executive Calvyn Gilfellan says their intention is to “change the perception that the castle is still a bastion of colonialism”.

“We cannot wish history away and we have to start telling the true painful stories from within the castle, whilst also celebrating and highlighting the beautiful cultures, traditions and people who were associated with it,” he says.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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